RethinkDB shut down last October. Yet, there is hope for its community and the companies that invested in the database system, as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation today announced it has purchased the source code, relicensed it under the Apache License, and contributed it to the Linux Foundation.
CNCF paid US$25,000 to purchase the RethinkDB copyright and the assets, and then it relicensed the software under the Apache License 2.0, which is considered one of the most popular permissive software licenses, allowing anyone to use the software for any purpose without complication.
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“CNCF has donated the code to the Linux Foundation, and RethinkDB is now a project of the Linux Foundation, not of the CNCF,” said Mike Glukhovsky, a RethinkDB cofounder who helps run developer relations at Stripe. “That could change in the future, but would first require the RethinkDB community to decide that they wanted to be part of CNCF, and then require the CNCF TOC to accept them.”
Originally, RethinkDB was licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License Version 3 (AGPL), which “limited the willingness of some companies to contribute to the software,” according to today’s CNCF announcement.
Bryan Cantrill, CTO of Joyent and a member of the CNCF technical oversight committee, wrote that it’s not uncommon for companies to ban the use of AGPL-licensed software entirely, since its “vagueness coupled with its rarity and its total lack of judicial precedent makes risk-averse lawyers very nervous.”
This hiccup makes the AGPL anti-collaborative. According to Cantrill, when companies license software under the AGPL, “They are exhibiting the corporate open-source anti-pattern of dual licensing for profit.”
Both him and Dan Kohn, the executive director of the CNCF, saw they could help RethinkDB, especially since it is consistent with the CNCF’s mission, and because buying the assets outright could do a service to the “deserving and beleaguered community,” according to Cantrill.
According to Glukhovsky, the project is still “alive and well.” Users can continue to run RethinkDB in production, receive updates, and develop without disruption, he wrote.
He said that RethinkDB is still an easy-to-scale database with robust clustering and automatic failover. Its signature feature is its native support for live queries that push real-time updates to applications, he said.
All accounts for RethinkDB, including its GitHub, the organization, and social media accounts, will continue to operate, and the “interim leadership team will work with the community to establish formal governance for the project,” wrote Glukhovsky.
In the future, RethinkDB may become an “Inception project,” which is when a project has an associated maturity level with the CNCF. A project must meet several requirements before being accepted.